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Fri Apr 27, 2012 at 02:27 PM PDT

Dr. Victoria Sweet: “God's Hotel”

by Marie

For those among us that have a vague recollection of a time when the US health care system was different and when it began to change, Dr. Victoria Sweet presents a gentle reminder:

The almshouse was how we used to take care of those who didn’t have health insurance. Every county had a free county hospital for the acutely ill, and a free county almshouse for everyone else who needed care.

Beginning in the 1950s, however, first the county almshouses and then the county hospitals were closed, for reasons of economy (as demanded from the right) and social justice (as demanded from the left),...

Clearer to me were the days of the dreadful state mental institutions that Ronald Reagan and liberal "do-gooders" closed in favor of small, local, residential, mental health care facilities.  Except we didn't build those alternative facilities and released those in need of better care to live on the streets where everyone can either ignore or complain about homelessness and not do much about the underlying problem.

On God's Hotel: A Doctor, a Hospital, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine  

"Victoria Sweet writes beautifully about the enormous richness of life at Laguna Honda, the chronic [care] hospital where she has spent the last twenty years, and the intense sense of place and community that binds patients and staff there. Such community in the medical world is vanishingly rare now, and Laguna Honda may be the last of its kind. . . . God's Hotel is a most important book which raises fundamental questions about the nature of medicine in our time. It should be required reading for anyone interested in the "business" of health care--and especially those interested in the humanity of health care." -- Oliver Sacks
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Fri Mar 30, 2012 at 04:15 PM PDT

Respect Gets Some Respect

by Marie

Imagine – just for a moment.  A Democratic member of the US Congress resigns due to health reasons.  Four weeks later, the election to replace the retiring member of Congress in this solidly Democratic district is held.  Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid cleared their calendars to be on hand to bask in the glory of retaining the seat.  John Boehner is cautiously optimistic that his team can pick off another sure-fire Democratic winner.  

The polls close and the counting begins.  The Democratic candidate garners 25% of the vote.  The Republican gets 8.4%.  The “Ron Paul” Libertarian gets 4.6%.  And the winner with 55.9% of the vote is the Green candidate.

Okay – stop imagining.  Democrats/liberals have no intention of abandoning their neo-liberal, war-mongering, and occasionally minority supporting party in favor of an anti-war, socialist party candidate.  In fact, hippie punching is as much a sport for Democrats as it is Republicans.  

But something like that did happen in the English speaking world yesterday.  

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Wed Mar 28, 2012 at 05:51 PM PDT

All's NOT Well at Fukushima

by Marie

Not at Reactor 2 per Common Dreams

Radiation levels inside Fukushima's reactor 2 have reached fatally high levels, and levels of water are far lower than previously thought, experts say today.
The current radiation levels are so high that even robots cannot enter. Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) says that new robots and equipment will need to be developed to deal with the lethal levels of radiation.
Comforting to know that the reactor is too dangerous for robots.

Unknown what's happening at reactors 1 and 3 because nobody or robots has been able to get in them, but there's speculation that they may be in worse shape.

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Sun Mar 25, 2012 at 12:46 PM PDT

Charlie Got A New Heart

by Marie

Being a classic “Good-Time-Charlie” had taken a toll on his old ticker.  With the best health insurance in the world, the docs managed to keep that ticker going a couple of decades longer than its due for replacement date.  Giving Charlie a full decade as a devoted anti-communist warrior and public servant.  The collapse of the USSR and  and 1992 final defeat of communists in Afghanistan were the culmination of some of Charlie's efforts.  

He could retire in 1996 satisfied that the world was a safer place.  Thanks to people like him.  Also to cash in a bit primarily as a $360,000/year lobbyist for Pakistan.  For eight years.  The ticker was slowing down and taking Charlie with it.

He was placed on a heart transplant waiting list in July 2007.  At age seventy-four.  Charlie got real lucky again.  Two months later a heart less than half his age was found to be just right for him.  There were no thirty, forty, or fifty-year-olds on that waiting list that were suitable for that thirty-five year old heart.  Or perhaps Charlie had the best health insurance and the means to cover the co-pays and continuing drug and treatment costs.

Whatever.  Charlie got a new heart.  That new heart kept Charlie alive for twenty-nine months.  Maybe the heart wasn't good enough.  Or Charlie was too old and unhealthy to be a decent recipient.  We only know that in the “land of the best health care in the world,” denying the Charlie Wilson's a new heart, even if it's on the government's dime, would be medical care rationing based on science instead of the preferred method of rationing based on money


Mon Mar 12, 2012 at 08:12 PM PDT

You Must Read This:

by Marie

I Don’t Want To See Their Faces; I Don’t Want To Hear Them Scream by Christopher Cooper.  

All. Of. It.

And Look at the pictures.

This is only a small portion of what our "greatest in the world" country has done over the past ten years in Afghanistan and Iraq.  

I'm sure the Republican primary voters in Mississippi and Alabama won't be thinking tomorrow about the human beings that we have destroyed as they trot off to cast their votes for one of the "let's bomb somebody else" gang or the "gold bug" nut.  Hell, if they had their way, they'd send a drone to get the Muslim in the WH.  But we can't do anything about those ignoramuses.  

We can only face the truth.  Go read Christopher Cooper.


Sat Mar 10, 2012 at 02:37 PM PST

SOS – One Hundred Years On

by Marie

At a seminar in Chicago in the late 1980s shortly before local elections, the local news was covering a window smashing/shooting incident at a candidate's campaign headquarters.  A local said to us out-of-towners, “Welcome to politics, Chicago style.”  He went on to joke about their fine traditions of ballot box stuffing and party machine politics.  This was simultaneously bizarre and horrifying to someone like me accustomed to tame and clean elections.  I'd long known that politics and elections were different in the west from that in the south, east, and Chicago, but how and why were one of those mysteries that I didn't give much thought to except to note occasionally seeming anomalies.   For example, why was Kansas once a hot-bed of progressive politics?  How could the Californian Republican Earl Warren have been the Chief Justice of the most progressive Supreme Court ever?  And what's the deal in Montana that lobbed a shot (spitball?) at Citizen's United

As the 41st state, Montana was a relative latecomer.  In 1889, the same year Washington achieved statehood and before:
Idaho: 1890
Wyoming: 1890
Utah: 1896
Oklahoma: 1907
Arizona: 1912
New Mexico: 1912

Natural resource, “cowboys & indians”, and/or Mormon territories.  And populations in tune with the rising progressive movement of that time.  For example, woman's suffrage had been established in Wyoming before statehood and retaining it was a non-negotiable condition for joining the union.

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Sat Feb 25, 2012 at 02:16 PM PST

A Mission or A Date?

by Marie

This vignette as told in gawkerstruck me as sort of creepy:

But when Mitt began seeing Davies' daughter Ann, the Romney family launched a concerted effort to convert not only Ann but her entire family to Mormonism. And they were wildly successful: Within a year of meeting Ann, Mitt and his father had converted all three of Edward Davies' children.

Not that it didn't lead to happily ever after for her and him.  It also rang some long ago and almost totally forgotten bell in my head.

It was a warm fall day.  Near the end of the lunch period and chatting away with my claque of friends at a table in the quad, Andrew Bell suddenly appeared and began asking our names.  My claque wasn't a clique.  We were just a varying group of girls that had known each other from our years in elementary  and/or junior high school and that first term in high school had the same lunch period.  Andrew Bell needed no introduction.  He was the ASB President.  Had also been the ASB President when we were in seventh grade and he was one of the important ninth-graders.  

When the introductions got to me, Andrew Bell said, “How are you Marie?”  The bell rang.  Time to get to class.  Picking up my books, Andrew Bell asked me if he could walk me to class.  While I couldn't fathom any reason why he would want to do that or I would want him to do it, couldn't think of anything to say other than, “Sure.”

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When the Sis recently recently showed up with an inhaler and reported her new diagnosis of asthma, I said, “Oh, everybody today is asthmatic.”  While the Sis tends to be a bit of a hypochondriac, the number of people I know being diagnosed with asthma has increased.  I was dismissive towards the Sis because anecdotally, asthma was beginning to seem as fashionable a diagnosis as hypoglycemia had been a few decades ago.  Or hysteria a century ago.

When middle-aged, non-smoker, white folks that live and work in low air pollution environments suddenly begin developing asthma at a significantly increasing rate, one would expect that the medical community would be sounding alarms along with writing more treatment prescriptions.  Apparently one would be wrong with that expectation, but fortunately there have been enough good clinicians asking why that there is one answer.

The LA Times reported this on August 13, 2010:

Overall, the increased risk of asthma associated with acetaminophen was 41%, the authors found. That could, at least in part, explain why there has been an increase in the prevalence of asthma in the 50 years since the drug was introduced. Given the widespread use of the drug, it could also represent a large public health problem.
Did you see that?  I didn't.
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Fri Feb 17, 2012 at 05:09 PM PST

Ownership Societies – Part III

by Marie

To appreciate just how correct Paul Krugman was when he said, “Given the way US policy favours owning over renting,” writes Paul Krugman, 2008’s Nobel laureate in economics, “you can make a good case that America already has too many homeowners.” doesn't require a bunch of charts and graphs.  One need only recognize how differently the economies of high and low home ownership over the past decade performed.

Table 1 in Drivers of Homeownership Rates in Selected OECD Countries (OECD Working Papers No. 849 – 2011) lists the home ownership rate in selected countries in the early to mid-1990s and 2000 to 2004.  The general trend was more home ownership but the increases were mostly modest.  For example in the US it went from 66.2 to 68.7.  To provide some context, the US rate was 64% in 1960, the highest, and significantly so, among the listed countries at that time.  Those at the top (high home ownership) of the list by 1990 and increased by at least a point by 2000-2004:

Ireland: 79.2%
Spain:  77.8%
Belgium: 67.7%
UK: 67.5%
US: 66.2%
Italy: 64.2%

Notice anything interesting about that list?  

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Wed Feb 15, 2012 at 03:40 PM PST

"Ownership" Societies – Part II

by Marie

In the United States a man builds a house to spend his latter years in it and he sells it before the roof is on.
Alexis de Tocqueville - Democracy In America, Volume 2 - 1840
Observations - 2011-2012

Mr. Tepper's $43.5 Million Mansion makes way for his dream mansion

Cleveland covets mortgage settlement money for demolition of abandoned homes

Is This The End Of Wall Street As They Knew It, NY Magazine:

Consciously or not, as a city, New York made a bargain: It would tolerate the one percent’s excessive pay as long as the rising tax base funded the schools, subways, and parks for the 99 percent. "Without Wall Street, New York becomes Philadelphia" is how a friend of mine in finance explains it.
Inspiring stuff, huh?
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Tue Feb 14, 2012 at 04:30 PM PST

“Ownership” Societies – Part I

by Marie

Did ordinary Americans question the wisdom of George W. Bush's call for an Ownership Society or even question what it meant?  Simply assuming that “ownership” makes life better.  While “better” means different things to different people, most would agree that if it doesn't include making our lives less risky and day-to-day living more secure that it wouldn't be better.

In Blowup, Malcolm Gladwell tackles risk in the modern world.  It's a fascinating read for many reasons beyond the scope of this diary and as such is recommended.  What I want to highlight from it is 1) systemic risk  2) how people perceive risk and 3) what do they do.

Modern systems, Perrow argues, are made up of thousands of parts, all of which interrelate in ways that are impossible to anticipate. Given that complexity, he says, it is almost inevitable that some combinations of minor failures will eventually amount to something catastrophic.
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Sat Feb 04, 2012 at 05:39 PM PST

The Great Pink Vampire Squid?

by Marie

Such a pity the Susan G. Komen Foundation couldn't trademark the color pink or a pink ribbon logo and only managed to nab a copyright on “for the cure,” and that took a clever dba rebranding from “foundation” to “Race for the Cure.” Not that the absence of a trade-mark for pink and pink ribbons stopped the operation from acting as if they owned both and with its one asset, “race for the cure,” (so different from the March of Dimes' WalkAmerica est. 1970 or the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life becoming the largest, in terms of annual revenues, of all breast cancer charities.

Allow me to repeat those three points:

The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure did NOT invent the color pink or initiate its use as a symbol for females.

The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure did NOT create the pink ribbon logo for breast cancer awareness and does NOT own it.  

The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure did not invent using races for medical charity fundraising.

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